Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Lifestyles

June 25, 2012

PLEASANT HILL RAMBLINGS: Mitchell inspires others to read with open mind, heart

CROSSVILLE — One of the perks of living in this lovely part of Cumberland County is meeting the people who have lived here all of their lives and are so much a part of the rich history of the Pleasant Hill area. One such person is Jym S. Mitchell, who has written poetry and short stories since junior high school.

His first collection of poems, Dilemmas, was published in 2011. This latest anthology, Simple Dreams, published the beginning of June, is already into its second printing. This collection includes poetry in myriad forms and prose giving the reader glimpses into the lives of characters — sometimes sad, sometimes playful, but always meaningful. There are multiple themes covered but threaded throughout the book are musings from the victim’s point of view dealing with racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, bullying, feminism, chauvinism, and mysticism.

In Mitchell’s note to his readers he urges, “Certain characters and narratives are real, while others came strictly from my active imagination. To the reader, it shouldn’t matter which is which as long as you’re reading with an open mind and an open heart.”

When I asked him where his ideas come from, Mitchell smiled and said that when he can’t sleep in the middle of the night, the words pour out as if they must escape his mind and be written down. Sometimes they are there in the morning when he awakes. Although he has not traveled extensively, the voices often come from other times and other places. When he reads those selections out loud, he takes on the persona — the accent, the inflections, the feelings of the character.

Many of the poems and stories are of his youth, the farm, the ranch, the horses, the cows, his parents, his siblings, his friends, even his enemies. The barn, stable and corral are empty now, the family home burned to the ground in 2000. Mitchell still lives on the property, his home fronted with exotic plants, grandparents’ gravestones (no graves however), the family lintel. The driveway is marked by a well-weathered mailbox, all artifacts brought from Grassy Cove, his mother’s birthplace.

Pleasant Hill is not the way it used to be either as the Academy’s buildings have been razed, Dr. May’s Homestead House destroyed, some buildings moved to other places or abandoned, trees fallen or taken down. Mitchell’s words bring them to life again.

Sherdie Kemmer Mitchell and her husband, Herman Eugene Mitchell Sr., were the parents of six sons and two daughters, all of whom still live in the Pleasant Hill area except David, who lives in Indiana, and Herman Mitchell Jr., who died in 1978. Mitchell Sr., before he passed away, broke horses and raised cattle on 96 acres of land on Lake Road, as well as tending the Uplands water plant.

The last born child, some of Mitchell's most endearing poems refer to his close relationship with his mother who died in 2009. The cover of Simple Dreams depicts their home in a painting by Mitchell’s brother-in-law, Bob England. After his first book was published, to his surprise, Mitchell became a minor celebrity almost over night in the town and county where he grew up often feeling like an outsider. He has received calls from strangers who relate to his subjects.

His eighth grade teacher, Carol V. James, herself the author of the book, Schooled, contacted him and invited him to a writer’s group in Crossville.

James wrote, “Jym has lived an unusually intense life that has given him great empathy for fellow humans that even his poems based on fictitious characters and experiences, he has only imagined are hauntingly genuine.”

Mitchell has become a regular participant in the monthly Pleasant Hill Writers’ Group as well as the Crossville group. He was contacted by a member of the Tennessee Holocaust Commission and asked to read his poem, “A Ghastly Dream” at their Day of Remembrance held at the Back Door Playhouse in Cookeville on May 1, 2011. The Crossville Chronicle has published poems of his on special occasions. A most unusual situation occurred when his niece passed a complete stranger reading Dilemmas in Myrtle Beach, NC. The positive way people have reacted to his writing has given him the self-confidence to continue his writing.

The Shanks Center for the Arts, 140 North Main St. in Crossville, has asked to sell his books in their gift shop. You may contact Mitchell at 277-3427 as he welcomes your questions or comments. The expressed goal of his writing is “to make people think.” As you read his work, you cannot help but think of your own life, people you have known, situations you wish you could change and more — so in that case, he has succeeded.

***

Reminder: The monthly $1 bag sale will take place at The Grab thrift store, 1944 West Main St. in Pleasant Hill, on Saturday, June 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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